Tag Archive | House Plants

This is Seriously Not Okay


On Friday I had a photo of my tropical hibiscus,  looking a little sad but otherwise healthy.

This cyclamen, however,  has an issue. What’s interesting is that I can’t see any visible problem.  That’s even worse.

Last summer it had aphids quite severely (the summer of 2016.) It hasn’t bloomed since then, although its leaves have been generally healthy.

Now this first flower in well over a year appears and it looks like this. Hmm.

I know that cyclamen are prone to mites but I would think that the leaves would be similarly stunted.

I will just have to watch the plant for more clues before I treat it.


House Plants in Winter


I suspect that some gardeners in temperate climates are grateful for a “winter break.” I know that others spend winter poring over seed and plant catalogs,  dreaming about next year’s garden.  Before they know it, seed starting time is here and gardening season has begun.

For me, gardening never ends. I just transition it indoors.  And with a couple of hundred house plants,  it really can feel like gardening year round–sometimes distressingly so if those plants have a plague of something.

But for the most part,  careful watching helps avoid that–and the plants are a joy, not a problem.


This year (for a change) I added to my “Christmas cactus” collection.  They now overflow two bay windows!  Next year I will likely have plants in bloom from October through February.  Now those are wonderful winter plants!


I will talk more about what to do–and how to keep your house plant collection interesting–over the next few weeks.  In the meantime,  enjoy some of my zygocacti photos.

Like the Children’s Game: Are These The Same?



Perhaps you can tell just by placement on the table that these two plants are not the same.  But it goes beyond that.

These are two different  schlumbergeria cultivars. The top one is called ” Scarlet Dancer.” The bottom one is “Dark Marie.”

And there are obvious differences. Despite its name, Dark Marie has more white in its flower. It also has a very subtle fuchsia edge on its petals.


You can see the distinct fuchsia tinge on its buds ( no, that’s not a reflection from the house plant next to it–it really is fuchsia tinged).

This isn’t true for Scarlet Dancer.  Its buds are just plain red with a hint of fuchsia only at the base. 20171119_114551

Maybe this isn’t so much like the children’s game after all if you learn how to look at flowers and buds.








More About Office Plants

On Monday, I talked about how to figure out what plants might be right for your office–and showed you the cactus that live in my office windows.

I also named some good contenders for office plants but didn’t show any photos. Many folks are visual. So here are some good choices for dark offices.  You’ll see them in sort of “holding” spaces here in our offices.


This is the “snake plant” that I referenced on Monday. I am quite fond of saying that this plant will grow in a closet. Normally, we have two of these plants against the back wall of our church altar where they reside in total darkness for 20 hours a day and they do just fine so long as they are not over-watered. They are really enjoying their “temporary” vacation in our offices while the church is decorated with other things.


Our rubber plant, ficus elastica, fares somewhat better.  It is normally over near our baptismal font, which is near a side door so it gets slightly more light from small windows in that door.  Again, it is loving its vacation in the light. It normally does have this burgundy cast to the leaf veins and stems. It loses much of that in our very dark interior.


These 3 peace lilies (spathiphyllum sp.) look pretty much the same as they do where ever they are. The only difference is that they need more water now that they are getting more light–that is something to take note of as you move plants around!


Finally, here is a dracena. Dracenas have great issue with out water and our dry air–hence the browning leaf tips (many of which you can see that I have already trimmed once). Other than that, they are very easy care plants. This one is usually in the church foyer so its light situation is generally the same. it’s just probably warmer than it might normally be in our foyer at the moment!

As you shop, look around–I will bet that you see many of these very same plants behind the over-running poinsettias. And if they can live in dark suburban malls–or office parks–they can live in your offices as well!

It’s Time for Indoor Plants!

Now that house plants are so in vogue, it seems almost boring to post about them.

So today I thought I would talk about bringing plants to work for a change. Office plants face an even more challenging environment than our homes. Our homes are usually hot and dry or perhaps like some of the homes here in New England, cold and drafty. But one real benefit homes have over offices is that they have windows. Lots of offices have very few–if any windows.

And while it is possible to grow some plants under office fluorescent lights, if you have a LEED certified office, you might not even have those–you might, instead, have LEDs. And those are not well suited for plants.

So what to do? First, as always, consider your conditions. Is you office bright or dark? And if it is bright, why? Are you blessed, as I am, to have natural light? This is what I am able to grow on my windowsills.

But most people aren’t so lucky. It is, in fact, the rare office that is sunny enough to grow cacti! I also have an anthurium in another part of my office, and way against a back wall, so it doesn’t burn, I have the air cleaning pothos plant.

So you see, I have some rather un-traditional plant choices at my workspace (except for the pothos, which I inherited).

What should you do if you are stuck in one of those interior offices without a window? I would definitely experiment.

Try plants that if they start to do poorly you wouldn’t mind taking home and living with in your house. For some good examples of low light plants, your garden center should have some suggestions to start.

But since many of us will be doing more shopping than we care for in the next few weeks, look around if you are in an enclosed mall. Yes, you’ll see more poinsettias than you’ve ever seen in your life. But beyond those, what are the “foundation” plants?

I’ll bet you see a lot of ficus (probably not a great office choice), dracenas (a much better choice), snake plants (also a fabulous choice–and there are some great varieties out there), ZZ plants (also good) and perhaps some smaller plants like diffenbachias, calatheas and aglaeonemas.

Take note of the mall conditions: hot and dry? Cold and dry? Drafty? You know it will be poorly lit (from a plant’s perspective, at least). How much like your office is it?

And different parts of the mall will have different conditions. Some may have skylights (don’t forget to look up for that, particularly if you are there at night).

Who said shopping has to be dull?

House Plants in Containers

Whenever I lecture on either house plants or on container garden design,  on of my  mainstays is to talk about using house  plants in outdoor containers.  I think this is a very under-done practice, and when gardeners do do it, they often discard ( or compost) the house plants at the end of the season with the annuals.  Not only is that unnecessary,  but it deprives the gardener of something that can be reused for many seasons and often in different designs each season.

Last weekend,  I took a stroll around a nearby town and photographed some of the containers to show house plants creatively used. These are all on borrowed time–we are already 2 weeks past our first frost date. But most of them look great!


This is a diffenbachia together with some fuchsia and purple leafed sweet potato vine.  Very pretty.


A simple arrangement of aralia, scaveola, and impatiens.


Tricolor dracena, more impatiens and begonias.


More sweet potato vine–chartreuse this time– more impatiens and another diffenbachia.


Some variegated tradescantia, yet more impatiens and a ti plant. There were many of these ti plants all over town but these were the best looking. Some were completely overwhelmed by the other flowers and foliage.


And now for something completely different,  just a peace lily in a basketimely. This can easily be whisked inside for cooler weather.


Finally  this is not the best looking planter, but I love the use of thyme as a ” spiller.”